Definition of Entertainment

Did you know that the latin root of  “to entertain” means “to hold between”? (Official dictionary definition at the end of this blog post). When an audience is no longer held, they are no longer being entertained. The mighty brass ring for any theatrical production is to keep the audience engaged so they are not looking at their watches and counting the minutes until intermission.

For several months I have been reading in detail about the architecture of entertainment; the elements that keep us engaged and the ones that make us want to leave the theater. In fact I just had a new package of books arrive here in China that were forwarded to me from the USA (thanks Mom!). I’ve been reading everything from the thoughts of 17th century team of Lully and Moliere, to Hammerstein, to contemporaries like the creators of Avenue Q.

I have lists and lists of notes. A LOT. I think I have two books’ worth. And maybe now still in my innocent understanding of things they can be condensed into one idea: movement. When movement stops and statis sets in the audience gets bored.

Such a simple concept. I will leave detailed ideas on specifics for another time. But I can’t help but see the simple word of “entertainment” as meaning so much more. “To hold together” – I notice I also get bored when I feel I have no movement in my life. The movements of everyday life bore me to a certain extent. Maybe that’s why I prefer to be “held together” by the muses. I have tremendous movement right now in the world of ideas and art. And that, for me, is quite enough.

en·ter·tain (ntr-tn)
v. en·ter·taineden·ter·tain·ingen·ter·tains

1. To hold the attention of with something amusing or diverting. See Synonyms at “amuse”.
2. To extend hospitality toward: entertain friends at dinner

a. To consider; contemplate: entertain an idea.
b. To hold in mind; harbor: entertained few illusions.
4. Archaic To continue with; maintain.
5. Obsolete To employ; hire.
6. To give admittance to; receive.


1. To show hospitality to guests.
2. To provide entertainment.

[Middle English entertinen, to maintain, from Old French entretenir, from Medieval Latinintertenre : Latin interamong; see inter- + Latin tenreto hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.]

One comment

  • I like the concept of entertainment as hospitality. And I like your brains penchant for dissection. Good thinkage Conrad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.